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Thyroidectomy: Surgery to Remove the Thyroid Gland

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Updated June 02, 2013

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Thyroid Problems
Thyroid With Goiter Image

Thryoid With Goiter

Image: © ADAM

There are four primary types of thyroid problems that make surgery necessary. The most common thyroid problems are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, which are problems with the amount of hormone that the gland secretes. Two additional problems that make thyroid surgery necessary are diseases that enlarge the thyroid and cancer of the thyroid.

The thyroid secretes two hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones work together to regulate the body’s metabolism.

Hypothyroidism is a disease where the thyroid produces too little hormones and may result in patients feeling lethargic, depressed, aches and pains and weight gain. Secondary hypothyroidism is a thyroid problem that begins with one of two other glands, the hypothalamus and the pituitary. In extreme cases, hypothyroidism can result in a life-threatening condition called "myxedema coma."

In most cases, hypothyroidism is easily treated with thyroid replacement (synthetic) hormones. Surgery is not typically required unless the gland is enlarged or diseased.

Causes of Hypothyroidism:

  • Too little thyroid replacement
  • Immune disorders
  • Radiation
  • Surgery to remove the thyroid
  • Tumor of the thyroid -- both benign and cancerous
  • Medications including Lithium, Amiodarone (Cordarone), Interferon and thyroid replacement

Hyperthyroidism is the exact opposite of hypothyroidism, with too much T3 or T4 being produced. The condition is commonly known as overactive thyroid.

Causes of Hyperthyroidism:

  • Graves disease (most common cause)
  • Too much iodine
  • Too much thyroid hormone replacement
  • Tumor of the testes
  • Tumor of the ovaries
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